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playing poker and teaching science: Am I a lucky poker player?
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Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a middle school science teacher, wrestling coach, poker player, scuba diver, aikido black belt, amateur writer, and student of life. In the past I have tried to give back a little by volunteering at a children's home in Belmopan, Belize, Central America. I also love Frosted Flakes. I have taken a year sabbatical from my teaching position in order to sail the Caribbean. Does that sound crazy to you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Am I a lucky poker player?

Would you rather be lucky or good? Here are my thoughts on luck:

Every time I sit down at a poker table I run into players who think that poker is all luck and that you don’t know which cards are good until the flop falls. There are a lot of them. They play any two cards from any position. They are the players who crack your aces with J4 offsuit because they stayed in a raised pot when a four hit on the flop.

This is an exact quote I heard from the player to my right at a St. Louis casino, “Why are you raising? You don’t know what cards are going to flop.”

They are the players who hit a run where they double their buy-in in four or five hands, only to slowly bleed away all their profits and then, eventually, their buy-in before they get up and leave grumbling about bad beats.

They are also the players who bring luck to the table.

Luck doesn’t come from catching good cards. That will happen. The laws of probability dictate that everyone will eventually receive the same two starting cards and that, over time, if every player stays in every hand until the river that every player will win one tenth of the hands in a 10-player game. Just like when flipping a coin, eventually you will have the exact same number of heads as tails.

Tobias Dantzig, the author of the book Number: The Language of Science, stated that mathematics is the supreme judge and that from its decisions there is no appeal. That’s the fact. You can’t mess with math. What is is regardless of what the definition of what is is. No matter how many times you add two and two you will always get four. Period.

Luck doesn’t come from the cards; luck comes from the players. You are lucky to be holding the nuts when you have a player betting into you. You are lucky to bet your AK and to be called down by a player with AQ, or even luckier K6. I say even luckier because AQ will always call down AK in a limit game. Luckier because the player who calls you down with second pair/no kicker will eventually give you even more money and you’re lucky to be sitting at his table.

At the poker table we create our own luck, or we may give it to someone else. Are you the one receiving the luck or the one giving it away?


Blogger Shelly said...

Great post! I'm one of the math-believers :)

2:56 PM  
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